Discover azelaic acid. While you may not have heard of it as often as some other popular skincare ingredients, azelaic acid boasts a stunning array of benefits that can transform your skin. From addressing acne to tackling hyperpigmentation, this versatile ingredient is able to target different skin concerns and different skin types. Below, we cover the benefits of azelaic acid, how to incorporate it into your daily skincare routine to target your skincare concerns, and our top recommended azelaic acid skincare products.
What is Azelaic Acid?
Azelaic acid, a naturally occurring organic compound, plays a significant role in both medicine and skincare. With the chemical formula C9H16O4, it’s classified as a dicarboxylic acid. It’s primarily found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye, though azelaic acid is inherently gluten-free. It’s also produced by a specific yeast strain known as Malassezia furfur, commonly found on the skin.
Azelaic Acid initially garnered attention for its therapeutic potential, particularly in skincare. Its origins trace back to the pioneering work of Drs. Marcella Nazzaro-Porro and Siro Passi at the S. Gallicano Dermatological Institute in Rome, where it was discovered as an effective treatment for skin pigmentation concerns. Subsequent research has shown its diverse benefits, including the inhibition of pigmentation enzymes, influence on cellular functions, free radical neutralization, and antimicrobial properties.
The Benefits of Azelaic Acid in Skincare
Azelaic acid is a skincare ingredient that has numerous benefits for numerous skin types and conditions. Some of these benefits include:
Reduction of Inflammation: When applied topically, azelaic acid can effectively soothe irritated skin by curbing the production of inflammatory compounds particularly for skin concerns like redness, sensitivity, and inflammatory conditions such as rosacea.
Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties: Azelaic acid possesses inherent antimicrobial capabilities. It effectively targets and inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria, such as Propionibacterium acnes. It also combats fungal infections on the skin, making it useful for addressing conditions like pityrosporum folliculitis.
Inhibition of Melanin Production: Azelaic acid is a potent inhibitor of melanin synthesis, the pigment responsible for skin color. By slowing down melanin production, it helps fade dark spots and prevents the formation of new ones. This makes it a valuable ingredient for treating hyperpigmentation and melasma.
Gentle Exfoliation: Azelaic acid has the unique ability to normalize keratinization, a process that maintains clear pores and assists in the elimination of blackheads. Furthermore, it aids in the removal of dead skin cells that can otherwise render the skin lackluster and susceptible to pore blockage. This gentle exfoliating action contributes to a smoother, more radiant complexion.
Antioxidant Properties: Azelaic acid’s antioxidant properties are instrumental in safeguarding long-term skin health. By neutralizing free radicals, it helps fight visible signs of aging and environmental damage.
Azelaic Acid and Common Skincare Concerns
One of the great advantages of Azelaic Acid is its compatibility with a wide range of skin types. Whether you have oily, dry, sensitive, or combination skin, you can likely benefit from Azelaic Acid. It’s typically well-tolerated, and its mild nature means it’s less likely to cause irritation compared to some other skincare ingredients.
Acne Management: Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, azelaic acid is highly effective in managing acne. It soothes inflammation, inhibits the growth of acne-causing bacteria, and provides gentle exfoliation, reducing the formation of closed comedones and clogged pores for clearer skin.
Hyperpigmentation Treatment: Azelaic acid both inhibits melanin production, helping to gradually fade dark spots, and prevent further visible signs of aging and sun damage. Whether you’re dealing with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from past breakouts or melasma, azelaic acid can help even out your complexion.
Rosacea Symptom Relief: Azelaic acid helps reduce the redness and inflammation associated with rosacea. It’s particularly effective in addressing the symptoms of papulopustular rosacea, which can cause red bumps and pustules to form on the face.
How to Incorporate Azelaic Acid into Your Skincare Routine
Azelaic Acid is a versatile skincare ingredient suitable for various skin types. It’s available in different concentrations, ranging from over-the-counter products with up to 10% concentration to prescription treatments with up to 20% concentration. To avoid potential irritation, start with a lower concentration and slowly increase its usage frequency over time. This gradual approach allows you to integrate Azelaic Acid effectively into your skincare routine.
Ingredients to Pair with Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid works well with other common products and ingredients. Depending on your skin concerns, combining azelaic acid with complementary ingredients can enhance its effectiveness and provide more targeted skincare results.
Here are some skincare ingredients that pair well with azelaic acid:
Retinol: Azelaic acid and retinol are a dynamic duo for improving skin texture and combating signs of aging. Azelaic acid also helps soothe potential retinol-induced irritation, making it a great choice for those looking to incorporate both ingredients into their routine.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C and azelaic acid share the spotlight in addressing hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. Vitamin C adds an extra layer of antioxidant protection and can help boost the brightening effects of Azelaic Acid.
Niacinamide: Azelaic acid and niacinamide can help with various skin concerns, including redness, enlarged pores, and acne. Niacinamide’s soothing and anti-inflammatory properties complement azelaic acid’s ability to reduce inflammation and fight acne-causing bacteria.
AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid): When used together with Azelaic Acid, AHAs like glycolic acid or lactic acid can enhance exfoliation, promoting smoother and more radiant skin. However, be cautious with layering, especially if you have sensitive skin, as it may increase the risk of irritation.
BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid): BHA, such as salicylic acid, and azelaic acid can work together to address acne-prone skin. While Azelaic Acid helps reduce inflammation and bacterial growth, BHA penetrates the pores to remove excess oil and unclog them.
Ingredient Interactions not to Pair with Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid typically works well with other skincare ingredients, but as with any active compound, it can lead to irritation if combined too frequently or in high concentrations with other potentially sensitizing products.
If you experience sensations like tightness, itching, burning, redness, or peeling skin, consider reducing the potency and frequency of these active ingredients. Prioritize restoring your skin’s protective barrier by switching to a gentler approach in your skincare routine.
Recommended Azelaic Acid Skincare Products
As mentioned, azelaic acid is available over-the-counter in lower concentrations, generally up to 10%, while doctors can prescribe up to 20% azelaic acid treatments. If you’re not sure if azelaic acid is right for your skin concerns, it’s best to start with a lower concentration before increasing concentration and frequency of use.
Below are some of our recommended over-the-counter azelaic acid skincare products.
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster
Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster is a versatile skincare product that combines azelaic acid with other potent ingredients. It can be used as a serum or mixed with your daily moisturizer. This booster addresses various skin concerns, including hyperpigmentation, acne, and redness, thanks to its blend of azelaic and salicylic acid, along with soothing components like licorice root extract. It offers a multi-action approach to brightening dark spots, evening skin tone, and improving overall skin texture. This lightweight, oil-free formula caters to all skin types and is an effective addition to your skincare regimen.
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid 10% Suspension
Experience radiant and transformed skin with The Ordinary’s Azelaic Acid 10% Brightening Cream. This formula combines high-concentration azelaic acid, a potent natural antioxidant, with hydrating dimethicone and soothing vitamin E. It gently improves skin tone and texture while targeting issues like rosacea, acne, and discoloration. This lightweight, gel-cream formulation is suitable for daily use, cruelty-free, vegan, and free from unwanted ingredients.
Peach Slices Redness Relief Azelaic Acid Serum
Peach Slices Redness Relief Azelaic Acid Serum is a concentrated treatment serum featuring 10% Azelaic Acid, Panthenol, and Green Algae. It’s designed to visibly reduce redness, inflammation, and signs of irritation while promoting calm, smooth, and even-toned skin. This gentle and clean formula is suitable for all skin types and addresses concerns like acne, dryness, hyperpigmentation, and redness. It offers the benefits of Azelaic Acid, including antibacterial properties and gentle exfoliation, making it an excellent choice for sensitive skin. The serum is also silicone-free, fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and cruelty-free.
Glytone Enhance Brightening Complex
Glytone Enhance Brightening Complex is a transformative cream formulated with an impressive 12% azelaic acid and 3% glycolic acid. It effectively addresses dark spots, exfoliates dead skin cells, and evens out skin tone. This powerful combination brightens the skin, improves texture, and hydrates, making it suitable for those with hyperpigmentation concerns. The lightweight formula provides instant hydration while promoting a more radiant complexion.